Field Notes - Lisa Parsons

Field Notes

  • Sun, 08 Jul 2018 22:30:10 -0400

    Summer Swimming Hole

    Late Summer Swimming Hole Below 

    A Whale Breaching From a White-Flecked Green Sea



    The description, A Whale Breaching From a White-Flecked Green Sea, was in an article in a local newspaper.  I read that and immediately knew without seeing the photo where that location was in the Green River Gorge. 

    Beyond the gate at the end of the parking area for the Green River Gorge Resort / Paradise area a series of old roads lead to different locations along the river.  Follow the road past the first left and take the second left toward the river.  Follow the primitive locals trail down along the hillside between the river and the uplands of the old town of Franklin.  Along the way you’ll see some old railway line.  


    Where the trail meets the river a giant rock spirals out of the deep green water like a whale.  White foam speckles the surface of the deep green color of the water.  At low water in July and August a rocky beach frames a deep green pool beneath the Whale rock.  A large flat rock sits in the middle of the pool.  Great for soaking up the sun on a hot day. 

    The river has changed in this area.  A few years ago a large slide came down the north side of the river sending a large mass of boulders, mud, and trees to form a new shoreline and add additional rocks in the river.  The Green River, like any river, is constantly changing.  The ground along the sandstone bedrock is fluid with heavy rain saturated ground giving way to the power of gravity.  The Gorge remains a deep ditch between two communities but within it is always changing.  Small beaches are eroded and new beaches are formed by the power of water.  Hillsides slough, and and trees topple.



    In the winter the river is wild.  The high water pulses and pushes against the sandstone cliffs carving bowls, tunnels, and smooth undulating walls.  In the summer the current at low water wanders slowly between exposed boulders and riffles tumble gently into deep languid pools.  It is in the summer that the Gorge is more friendly and inviting.  A swimming hole like this one beckons on those hot mid summer days when the frigid water is a welcome relief.

    As with any river use caution.  The Gorge is only a good place to swim in late July and August.  None of the trails in this area are officially maintained.  They are local’s trails and are often primitive and can be exposed in areas.  Use common sense.  Know your limits and enjoy the discovery of this amazing wild area just 30 miles from over 2 million people.

    To get there:  Turn east at the Cenex station on to Lawson Rd from highway 169 that runs thru Black Diamond.  Follow the road 4 miles down to the river.  Right before the one lane bridge turn right on to a gravel road and a wide open area with parking on the left.  Park, put your $5 into the box at the entry.  Walk to the end of the parking area past the gate that separates the private land from Washington State Parks land.  Follow past the first left and take the second left.  Follow it down to the river.

  • Sun, 01 Jul 2018 22:00:56 -0400

    Paradise Rediscovered

    Paradise Rediscovered

    Green River Gorge Resort

    The Bridge Overlook

    The road winds down a long hill.  As it turns it passes a couple of houses, a spring spilling out of the hillside and what looks like an overgrown R.V. park.  The blinking light is a stop sign to either stop or go for cars on either side of a one lane bridge.  Only one car from either direction can cross the bridge at a time.  The Green River Gorge Road (or Lawson Road as it is known in Black Diamond) crosses over one of the most beautiful sections of the Green River Gorge…and one of the more accessible areas outside of Washington State Parks.


    The Green River Gorge Resort has gone through many incarnations.  In the 1920s it was privately owned resort with a hotel, cabins, and a service station.   In the wild 70s and 80s it had a reputation as a party spot that drew locals and others who would come to jump off the cliffs and swim in the late summer.  I remember going with a friend in the 1980s to go swim. At that time the old resort had an $2 entry fee, a snack bar, and a closed private campground. Today the old dilapidated green building houses a manufacturing facility for underwater salvage equipment and still has the private campground but the area is much quieter.  In front it isn’t uncommon to see the local residents sitting outside on the old weather worn deck.  You might even see a peacock on the roof or strolling across the roadway as you pass by.  

    A few years ago the owners of resort and surrounding area on both sides of the river reopened access to the Gorge.  For $5 that you place in a box on either side of the river you can park and access this incredible oasis.  From the resort side of the river you park in a lot across the street from the resort building near a small pond.  Then you enter through a chain link gate on the left side of the Green resort building and step into another world.  


    A wooden staircase leads under the one lane bridge towering above.  It bends a way down to the river passing by a spring that forms the waterfall further down.  A platform has bench beside the spring and overlooks the river below.  The end of staircase transitions to worn sandstone pathways.  One trail leads to a cave behind the iconic waterfall that you can see from the bridge overlook above.  Behind the waterfall in the cave is an pool carved out of the sandstone. A steel lined fence runs along the permitter of the cave to keep anyone from falling.  Water droplets form rain beneath the eve of the cave as falls cascade past the opening, streaming down the sandstone face beyond the lip of the cave.  I’ve often wondered if the water in the carved stone pool was heated at one time because to sit in that cold water in the shade of the overhang would be quite frigid.


    Below the falls. When the river is low you can walk between two large overhanging stones to reach the waterfall.   Draped on the sides are maidenhair ferns.  On the other side of the stones in the other direction is a small rocky beach and another bath carved out of the sandstone.  From here you can enjoy a swim to the water fall or a float down the green alley to another beach farther down.  This area is only safe to swim at very low water levels that can be found only at the end of July and August.


    Beyond the stairs the trail continues further along a worn sandstone path between beds of bright green moss.  It turns beneath a stone archway made by two leaning sandstone rocks. Ivy hangs at the side of the doorway leading to the river beyond.  Walking through it feels like your entering a lost world of wilderness. There the trail continues across the sandstone and into a forest growing on the stones.  The footpaths are slippery.  Above the pathway is another smaller but taller waterfall cascades 100 feet above the river.  


    The trail reaches a sandstone overlook and then a sharp path leads down to a small moon shaped rocky beach right at a surf wave called Paradise Ledge.  A small pool behind the rocky outcrop next to the ledge is a great place to wade in on a hot summer day.  In the early part of the year you might catch a show of white water kayakers surfing the play wave.  In the fall you can glimpse a salmon leaping up the narrow ledge of water or resting in a small sandstone pool at the swift waters edge.


    On the other side of the river you can access the Gorge by turning west into a grassy parking area through an open gate.  Just beyond the gate is a cement and steel box for your $5 entry fee.  Park and follow the trail past the sign says “River Access” that is posted on a tree. From there a steep trail leads down to where the kayakers put in. From the kayaker’s trail you can find perches that overlook the falls and the green alley.  A sloping sandstone beach marks the entry and exit for kayakers and is a sunny spot at mid day along the river corridor.  From the parking area you can continue straight through another gate and explore the Old Town of Franklin and river access previously posted on my blog.


    Being able to access this part of the river is a treat.  For years it was closed and although I was given permission to explore the area for my conservation work it feels less like trespassing now that it is open to the public and can be enjoyed by all.  However, as with any privilege, all it will take is a few yahoos jumping off the cliffs, leaving their trash, or just being jerks for this area to be closed again.  So bring your curiosity, a good pair of skid proof shoes, and enjoy the area.  Please take your garbage with you and use common sense when accessing the water for swimming or floating.  



    My next blog post will be about the river downstream of the Gorge.  A secret swimming spot, a coal car, and a mushroom rock.

     

     

  • Mon, 28 May 2018 21:30:03 -0400

    Franklin Townsite Hike and Beyond

    Spring Time Hike to the Historic Franklin Townsite,

    Mine, Cemetery, and Black Diamond Springs

    Franklin was a company-owned coal mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town site was nestled alongside the Green River Gorge and has many cement foundations, a 1,300-foot coal mine shaft, cemetery, and other reminders of what it was like when coal was king in the King County area.

    Spring is a beautiful time to explore the area.  The brown of winter is replaced with brilliant greens.  The white lace of Ocean Spray hangs off a drapery of branches.  The pink flowers of Salmon berry give way to plump juicy orange berries as spring moves into summer.  Bunches of cascara berries are like bright beacons of red in the forest.  On the ground giant Trillium briefly show their three leafed white flowers.  Everywhere there is bird song as the forest awakes.  Everything is new and  the forest is habitat for fawns, coyote pups, bear cubs, mountain beaver and raccoon kits.


    Along the trail to Franklin there is the strong sound of the the Green River in spring crashing against sandstone cliffs and over boulders, rushing through narrows and lapping at the small eddies and beaches.  The sky becomes crowded with the new leaves of giant Maple, bright green moss paints the old town foundations, and Fiddlehead ferns unfurl their long fronds.

    Walking through the old historic Franklin Townsite is like a treasure hunt. Out of the tangle of ferns, salal, vine maple, and Cedar old building foundations reveal themselves.  Old pieces of cable and rock filled mine shafts catch the corner of your eye.  At the old historic cemetery grave stones mark another time, of people, who pioneered this once bustling coal mining town.  Names like Romulas, Standridge, Farro, Johnson, and Hanson mark the gravestones.  Immigrants of different European descent.  Their descendants, some now scattered to the wind and some still carrying on the lineage locally in the town of Black Diamond and surrounding countryside.


    In the spring at the old cemetery reminders of loved ones come in the form of daffodils and purple vinca carefully planted next to family gravestones.  Even now sometimes you’ll find fresh cut flowers next to a lonely headstone.  This is a community with roots that go long and deep.  Even today old timers care for the cemetery and local Black Diamond museum.  The old townsite like the river is measured in a different metronome.  The town in generations.  The river in geologic strata that forms the river banks.

    The Trail

    The trail starts at the northern side of the Green River Gorge Resort.  For $5 you can park in a field on the western side of the road.  From the trailhead you pass through a gate from private land to the undeveloped Washington State Parks land.  From there the choices are a couple of lefts that lead down to the river in different spots.  The first leads down to a steep river edge lined in dark stone.  Across the river is an old coal car that still sticks out of the river and a mushroom rock. 


    The other left, which is my favorites, is a local’s swimming whole with a sandstone whale breaching from the deep green of the river.  A flat rock is exposed in the late summer is the perfect perch to soak in the long awaited sunshine of a northwest summer.  


    Pass by those and follow a gravel road up hill to a fork.  At the fork is an old black coal car donated by Palmer Coking and Coal. 


    The right leads to some old foundations.  To the left the road becomes a trail heading farther upward to a fenced and grated mine shaft and a wall of sedimentary leaf prints imprinted in pink and orange sandstone.  Beyond the mine shaft the trail leads further up past old elevated metal rails that looks like it may have transported little coal cars but actually transported a water line.



    After a walk along the edge of the hill you finally arrive at the old cemetery.  A small loop trail leads through the old gravestones.  If you continue past there to the left you’ll drop down to an old road that leads down to the Black Diamond Springs.  From the river you can see the water of three joined springs tumble down a rocky hillside and spill into the river.  Cold clear water that supplies the city of Black Diamond with water.  A suspension bridge that is locked leads to the spring side of the river.  The trail pretty much deadness there.  Beyond that are thickets of nettles,  and native black berry that make bushwacking a painful process.


    For a map, directions, and more information visit Outdoor Project Hike Description:  https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/washington/hikes/franklin-ghost-town-mine-cemetery

    For more information you can visit:

    Black Diamond History Website

    Black Diamond Facebook Page

    If you’re unfamiliar with the town’s history, check out Franklin: Everything You Always Wanted to Know, at http://wp.me/pDbRj-hV.

  • Mon, 30 Apr 2018 21:30:40 -0400

    Volunteer on May 5th at the Green River Cleanup

    Help out on the ground or on the river:  Go to http://www.greenrivercleanup.org for a list of ways you can volunteer.


    “The Green River Clean-Up was conceived by Volunteers for outdoor Washington. In 1985 they removed over 100 tons of trash, pollutants, cars, tires, appliances etc. on 130 miles of river banks from Tacoma’s Headworks to Elliot Bay. The 14 mile Gorge reach was organized by Washington State Parks Dennis Meyers, then Ranger At Kanaskat Palmer. Included Washington Kayak Club, Paddle Trails Canoe Club, Boeing Whitewater and Touring Club and the fledgling Washington Recreational River Runners”.



    Join the 2018 Green River Cleanup

    May 5th, 2018

    Sign up on Facebook

    For the last 33 years the Washington Recreational River Runners and Friends of the Green, and others have been organizing a river cleanup of the Green River Gorge.  Whitewater boaters come from all over to run the iconic Green River Gorge and give back to their river.  As many as 500 boaters and ground crews have shown up to help clean up the river and shorelines of garbage.  Garbage that at times consists of flip flops, beer bottles, and deflated inner tubes.  Other times boaters and ground crews have removed old cars, motorcycle skeletons and even a car sized plastic jug.



    If you are an expert boater this is a great opportunity to run one of the top whitewater rivers in Washington State. 



    For non boaters or inexperienced boaters you can see the river through a reputable whitewater rafting company as a passenger or join one of the ground crews at various locations along the river.



    Raft with River Recreation

    As always, garbage continues to be a problem where ever people can access the Gorge.  I doubt there will ever be a day when the Green River Cleanup is not needed.  For now the annual event is a great way to see this unique river gorge and give back to the river. 

    For more information visit: http://www.greenrivercleanup.org



    Sign up on the event page on Washington Recreational River Runners Facebook page.


  • Sun, 22 Apr 2018 22:00:11 -0400

    From the Air Above...

    What does the Green River Gorge look like from above?  That is the question I asked myself when I enlisted my friend, a pilot, to fly me over the Gorge in April of 2017.



    Before that day I’d only seen the gorge from the depths or along the cliff edges.  Above the gorge the sky is framed in a forest or 50 million year old sandstone.  Planes fly overhead along with Eagles and Osprey.  Along this narrow airspace cliff swallows perform aerial maneuvers catching insects in the evening sky.  Below, on the ground and in the river is a secluded corridor where bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, and river otters can move freely from east to west unencumbered by roadways and houses.   White water boaters, hikers, fishermen seeking solitude or adventure can find it here.



    The corridor is long and snakes between one landscape to the north and the one to the south.  From the highway 169 you might consider the gorge a big ditch that you have to cross to get from Black Diamond to Enumclaw.  There is no way through it, only over it.  From the ground it is hard to gauge the profoundness of this deep river carved gorge.



    From the air it is equally elusive but more is revealed.  At the eastern edge is the foothills of the upper Green River watershed.  Up against the foothills is the the barrier of the Howard Hanson Dam.  The dam supplies water to the city of Tacoma and is used for flood control.  It filled the upper gorge which was also quite unique.  Richard Bangs, the founder of Expedia and one of the first people to raft many of the world’s major rivers rafted the upper gorge before it was dammed.  Now that gorge is a lake of water. 


    It was a dam that led Wolf Bauer in the 60s to advocate for creating the Green River Gorge Conservation Plan.  He had watched the Cowlitz river canyon disappear under a reservoir behind a dam and new that he had to save the the Green River Gorge.  The evidence shows what could have happened to the Green River Gorge without his efforts to protect the gorge.



    Surrounding the upper dam and reservoir is a tapestry of clearcuts and third growth timber forests.  A green steel railroad bridge marks the transition from the upper watershed to the middle watershed.  The foothills lie above it and the rural transition lies below it. Just below the railway bridge the Kanaskat / Cumberland Road crosses over the river and is one of only 3 bridges over the gorge.  To the north of the bridge is a gravel pit.  Below the dam are a smattering of houses and the Cumberland / Kanaskat bridge before the river enters Kanaskat State Park.  There the Gorge narrows as it enters the actual Gorge. 


    From above the gorge looks like a deep green snake it twists its way through a millennia of river carved sandstone.  Cutting through thick evergreen forest.  Wherever the landscape is more forgiving you’ll see a house or two along the edge. 



    Wolf worked to protect the land from the rim of the river to the bottom of the gorge but beyond that there is very little protection for the uplands behind the river’s edge.  Already view homes are cutting away forest.  Still there is a sense of wild remoteness where forest remains, towering cliffs carve quiet islands broken only by a kayaker, rafter, or merganser riding the river’s currents.


    From Kanaskat to the Green River Gorge resort is the upper gorge and the most wild and isolated area of the river.  Only broken by a power line corridor that cuts across the river just above the famous rapids Mercury and the Nozzle.  



    At the Green River Gorge resort is only the second bridge to cross over the gorge.  A small gathering of homes and a private access to the river lies there.  Trails lead down to cascading waterfalls, sandstone footpaths, and a green alley of water that ends in a play wave called Paradise ledge.


    Beyond the ledge the river sneaks back into seclusion past towering white and yellow sandstone cliffs, by a myriad of springs that topple out of the surrounding hillsides and fill the river with cold clear water.  Fishermen’s trails careen through thick forest, Devil’s Club, and along steep cliff walls to small open beaches perfect for casting a line into the deep green pools below the whitewater rapids.



    Just below halfway, highway 169 crosses over the river and marks the transition of the river from  deep remote canyon to wider forested slopes with rural farms and houses encroaching closer to the edge.  To the north Black Diamond grows around the gorge’s edge.  To the south farmlands of the Enumclaw plateau stretch towards the White river further to the south.




    The terminus of the Gorge is at Flaming Geyser State Park.  This is where the gorge officially ends and the Green River Valley begins.  This river carved canyon lies just a few miles from over 2 million people. It is the last remaining east / west corridor of open space connecting the foothills of the upper Green River watershed Puget Sound lowlands of the Green River Valley.  




    From the air above it is easy to see why this area is so unique and worth continued conservation efforts that were originally started by Wolf Bauer in the 60s.  Today they need you to help continue the effort.  It is a unique opportunity for conservation in an expanding urban / suburban landscape that can help protect lowland habitat for wildlife and recreation opportunities for the adventurous among us.



    Happy Earth Day!

  • Sun, 15 Apr 2018 21:30:45 -0400

    North Flaming Geyser State Park

    Flaming Geyser is a 503 acre day use park that is the downstream book end to the Green River Gorge.  Flaming Geyser is where the Green River Gorge ends and the Green River Valley begins.  The steep cliff walls of the gorge give way to open fields and farm land.



    Across the river from the main part of Flaming Geyser State Park is an undeveloped section of the park that is at least as large as the main park.  Originally Washington State Parks was going to put the old bridge that used to cross the river at 218th Ave SE (that was replaced with the concrete bridge you see now) in the park and then develop a campground across the river.  Somehow the old bridge just sat in a field next to Whitney Bridge Park for years before it was carted off never to be a link between the main Flaming Geyser park and a new camp ground.


    What remains today is this undeveloped area is an old homestead.  A weathered barn with a newer metal room stands alone on an upper bench of an open meadow.  Primitive trails lead down to the river in several spots.  An old road leads past a wetland and into the forest.  The road passes an old abandoned car and leads down to large creek and a forested wetland.



    While it looks like State Parks has done some recent cleaning of the black berry vines and cut back the brush it remains largely the same as it has since I visited it many years ago.  It is a great alternative to the main park and a nice side adventure on a spring day or a great place to enjoy the river on the busier summer days in the main park.



    To get there:  Head east on SE Green Valley Road past the main entrance to Flaming Geyser.  Turn right on to SE 254th street and follow downhill to where the road dead ends.  There is parking near the gate for about 10 vehicles.  For more info on Flaming Geyser visit the Washington State Parks web page.  There you can download a pdf of the map above.

    Remember to bring your Washington State Park Pass or visit the park on April 22nd, a Discover Pass Free Day. 

  • Sun, 01 Apr 2018 21:15:02 -0400

    Join the 33rd Annual Green River Cleanup

    “The Green River Clean-Up was conceived by Volunteers for outdoor Washington. In 1985 they removed over 100 tons of trash, pollutants, cars, tires, appliances etc. on 130 miles of river banks from Tacoma’s Headworks to Elliot Bay. The 14 mile Gorge reach was organized by Washington State Parks Dennis Meyers, then Ranger At Kanaskat Palmer. Included Washington Kayak Club, Paddle Trails Canoe Club, Boeing Whitewater and Touring Club and the fledgling Washington Recreational River Runners”.



    Join the 2018 Green River Cleanup

    May 5th, 2018

    Sign up on Facebook

    For the last 33 years the Washington Recreational River Runners and Friends of the Green, and others have been organizing a river cleanup of the Green River Gorge.  Whitewater boaters come from all over to run the iconic Green River Gorge and give back to their river.  As many as 500 boaters and ground crews have shown up to help clean up the river and shorelines of garbage.  Garbage that at times consists of flip flops, beer bottles, and deflated inner tubes.  Other times boaters and ground crews have removed old cars, motorcycle skeletons and even a car sized plastic jug.



    Last year was an unexpected adventure.  The opportunity to run the incredible Green River Gorge at 3200 c.f.s. on a weekend is a rare.  To get to do it with hundreds of other rafters who are there to cleanup the Green River Gorge is probably a once in a life time event.  That was the case this last years 32nd Annual Green River Cleanup. 



    If you are an expert boater this is a great opportunity to run one of the top whitewater rivers in Washington State. 



    For non boaters or inexperienced boaters you can see the river through a reputable whitewater rafting company as a passenger or join one of the ground crews at various locations along the river.



    Raft with River Recreation

    As always, garbage continues to be a problem where ever people can access the Gorge.  I doubt there will ever be a day when the Green River Cleanup is not needed.  For now the annual event is a great way to see this unique river gorge and give back to the river. 

    For more information visit: http://www.greenrivercleanup.org



    Sign up on the event page on Washington Recreational River Runners Facebook page.

  • Sun, 07 Jan 2018 21:30:46 -0500

    Hanging Gardens

    Why is it called Hanging Gardens?

    Hanging Gardens is was so aptly named by Wolf Bauer because of the native vegetation perched along the edges of eroding sandstone.  Small Cedars along with other smaller native plants cling to their narrow purchase.



    Hanging Gardens is a hidden gem that is little known by outsiders.  From its unmarked trail head (find the red gate on the north side of Enumclaw/Franklin Road SE) it is a short walk down an old road and then a primitive trail down to the Green River.

    The trail starts as a wide grass footpath through forest and then along a chain link fence on the right.  The fence is to protect city of Black Diamond’s water supply which consists of three under ground springs. On the other side look out for a trail that shoots off to the left.  This undocumented trail meanders along the upper rim of the gorge and eventually connects, via an old grass covered road, that leads to the Icy Creek trail route.

    Continue past the chain link and stay on the trail to the right past a widened clearing.  The trail continues downward and is muddy in some places during the wet months.  Towards the bottom, the trail gets significantly steeper as it descends along the sloping ridge line.  Before it reaches a flat area on the left, the trail is steep and there is exposed clay that can be slippery.  Still all the trail is navigable with care and a good pair of shoes or hiking boots.



    The flat area to the left, near the bottom, offers up views downstream and across the river where a large sandstone cliff curves away from the river.  People have used this as an unofficial campsite in the past but camping is not allowed by Washington State Parks on this site.

    The trail descends to a flat area through a forest of Cedar, Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir.  As you walk towards the river you get a glimpse of cliff beyond the forest.  A white back drop behind the towering trees.  



    The trail opens up to a beach that grows and shrinks depending on the river level.  Across from the beach is a 150 sandstone cliff  at the sharp bend in the jade green river.  The “hanging Gardens” of small Cedars and alder along with other smaller native plants cling to their narrow purchase along the edges of eroding sandstone.



    This spot in the Green River Gorge is great any time of year!  In the fall the orange, yellow, and red colors of autumn contrast with the white cliff wall and the jade green of the river.  In the winter the high water fills the channel and the white water riffles become waves worthy of rafters.  If you are lucky you may even see a white water kayaker or two braving the winter chill to kayak one of Washington State’s top 10 white water runs.  In the spring the new green pops as vine and giant maple along with alder leaves create a new canopy.  Western sword and fiddlehead ferns unfurl and fill in the space between Salal and Oregon Grape.


    Then there is summer.  In the late summer the towering wall and thick native forest create a private, deep pool that is ideal for taking a dip and cooling off.


    In the warm evenings, the air will be filled with sparrows who have emerged from their hiding places nestled in the cliff walls.  They dart like agile aviators as they catch insects for an evening meal.



    Advice

    For information about driving directions, access, and a map visit now posted on the Outdoor Project’s website at: Green River Gorge Swimming Hole

    The best time to swim in the Gorge is in July and August when the river levels is generally low enough to swim safely.  The best days are the really hot ones!  

    For some of the best views of the gorge, head 2.0 miles further northeast on Enumclaw Franklin Road SE all the way to the Bridge Overlook at the Green River Gorge Resort, where under ground springs emerge as waterfalls cascading down into a narrow green alley surrounded by moss covered sandstone.

    For more photos of Hanging Gardens.

  • Sun, 31 Dec 2017 21:30:50 -0500

    Winter in the Green River Gorge

    Snow in the Green River Gorge.


    Snow has a magical way of transforming the stark bareness of a winter landscape.  A white blanket of snow covering the ground hides the decaying leaves and limp brown grass.  The bare branches of trees dramatically contrast against the white.  Red berries hidden in dark shadows of winter bushes pop as the shadows are now brightened by snow.  The forest canopy is renewed below dark snow laden clouds.  Quiet lingers between crunching sweeps of footsteps through the snow.

    The magic is that a visit to an old familiar haunt becomes a new adventure and an exploration of a foreign landscape that just the day before was so well known as to seem common place and routine.

    The Gorge is one of those places that is worth a visit after the passing of the northern winds of winter.  Cold freezing temperatures transform the drip, drip of smaller springs along a cliff wall at Icy creek into layers of icycles and icy lace encrusted moss.  Currents of river and stream flow like dark inky strands between snow covered rocks and the white lined shoreline.


    At the Green River Gorge resort a look over the one lane bridge presents new prominent features outlined in white, edged by snow, and encrusted in ice.  The falls, the giant rock on river left, the dark cliff wall behind the forest.  The dark wet sandstone becomes a white path along the river’s edge.


    Check  out the photos (above) from previous winters in the Gorge.  Get ready for the next snow storm by planning your route for adventure in the Green River Gorge.

    Green River Access



    Also visit Nolte State Park

    Here is to great adventures in 2018!

    Happy New Year!

  • Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:30:34 -0500

    Icy Creek Spring Hike

    Winter, spring, summer, and fall.  Icy creek is a great hike any time of year.  This year I added trail information on the website to help guide adventurers out to some of the best locations along the Green River Gorge.  Recently, as a volunteer contributor, I added the Icy Creek Spring in the Green River Gorge hike to the Outdoor Project website.  Adding this hike to the Outdoor project allowed me to add existing GPS information with a more formal description of the hike including length, elevation loss and gain, driving instructions, and access information.  Additionally you can view photos and learn more about the highlights of the area before you visit.

    For the Icy Creek Spring in the Green River Gorge hike click this link.

    For more information about the Outdoor Project click this link.

    Stay tuned.  I’m working with contributors to update some of the other hikes in the Green River Gorge and add new hikes in the area.

    More About Icy Creek Spring

    In approximately 2000 I discovered an area along the Green River Gorge called Icy Creek.  It is an underground spring that emerges from the ground where the slope downward before cliffs steep slopes plunge downward into the Green River Gorge.



    The southern rim of the Green River Gorge has unique hydro-geology.  Glacial rocky soil sits a top bedrock of sandstone.  Water quickly filters through the gravelly soil into bedrock spring channels.  These channels, or underground streams, then flow downward towards the twelve mile Green River Gorge.  There are approximately seven large springs that flow into the Green River Gorge along the southern rim.  One is those springs is located at the Green River Gorge Resort. Locals and Cascadia Spring water company fill up at a roadside stop where the spring water flows before crossing under the road and making its way down to a waterfall along the gorge. Further downstream there are three springs that Black Diamond gets their municipal water supply from.  Then there are the private Shangri-la springs next door to the Black Diamond springs.  Then Icy Creek spring.  These springs supply cold clear water to cool the temperature of the river as it flows through the gorge.  There continued existence is critical to preserve colder temperatures in the river.


    Icy Creek spring may emerge in two places up stream of where it comes out of the ground as well.  Upstream to the southwest is a large open water pond that can be seen from the roadway on the north side.  On the other side of the the Enumclaw / Franklin road was a large forested bog that was clearcut in 2015.



    The main spring appears out of the ground in a subtle way.  A sunken side hill lined with trees at the top serves as the opening where the spring flows out of the ground between rocks and through ferns.  The spring then widens and narrows again as it goes through an old culvert on an abandoned road.  Below the road is a widened area before the water reaches a small dam that used to hold water back for trout ponds.  Not too long ago the  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife even tried to use the ponds to raise Bass at one point.  However the steepness of the spring beat up the Bass as they plummeted down waterfalls and steep rocky channels. They would emerge at the bottom of the gorge missing fins and scales.  Or so the story goes.


    In the wide area wildlife trails spill down the adjacent hillsides where they have made a habit of coming down to drink.  Watercress turns the slower moving water into a bright green garden.  The water then tumbles over the channels of the dam to a rocky free flowing channel below.  



    The dam is now covered with bright green moss, bright orange lichens and licorice ferns.  There is even a cedar or two growing from between the grates along the top.  Past floods have cut channels around it’s concrete base, but it still stands as a reminder of another time.  Beyond that icy creek enters the rocky course and immediately plunges down a series of waterfalls through deep forest.


    Icy Creek spring emerges at the bottom of the gorge through a tumbling field of rocks that curve sharply around a dark wall of coal laced with undulating maidenhair ferns. Dripping devil’s club sprouts at the base of the cliff like guard dogs constantly on alert.  All along a curved dark wall are more springs forming a row of waterfalls that seem to disappear into the undergrowth of salmon berry and salal.



    Colored stones beneath the moving water lie at the base of the cliff as the water turns yet again and spills over a small diversion dam.  Most of the water goes downstream to the river but some is siphoned off to provide water for a salmon pen that lies between the steep slopes of the gorge and the river.


    In the winter and early summer icy cold water fills the narrow channel.  In late summer after the mountains snow has melted the current lessens and green moss grows atop exposed stones.  At this time of year it is easy to boulder hop from one side of the creek to the other.
    In autumn the shallow spring becomes the final resting place for both native and hatchery salmon. They stage in the confluence of spring and river in the deeper water of the river.  They wait for the rains.  When it is time they make their last ditch effort to swim and flail their bodies through the shallow water as far as they can reach.  Then spawn before dying.  


    Salmon spawn where Icy Creek spring enters the Green River Gorge.  Their eggs, exposed, are food for water ouzels who flit from rock to rock collecting the bright pink irridescant eggs.  River otters and bear feast on their flesh.  Animals, carrying their feast, spread their remains across the forest, putting nutrients back into the soil.  Salmon give life to many critters.  The cold cool water of Icy Creek spring gives life to the salmon.



    In the gorge, forest crowds between cliff and water.  Upstream and down the forest is alive with bob cat, raccoons, deer, coyotes, and bear.  In the river, springs, and in the narrow airspace Mergansers, Osprey, Eagles, and King Fishers call the gorge home.  Here there is a different rhythm in daylight and night that exists.  This wild paradise is so close to over 2 million people and yet here, you would never know it.  
    These springs, like Icy Creek, are the arteries that connect the mountains of the Cascade Foothills to the Puget Sound lowlands.  Arteries that bring mountain snow downstream in the form of moving water and brings salmon back home from their travels in the ocean.  The river connects everything together, but only here in the Green River Gorge does the river reveal a wild remnant of it’s former self.  A snap shot of a wild untamed river that can teach us about what we have lost and what is still left to protect!


    Check out the new Icy Creek Spring hike on Outdoor Project.

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